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HEAT ACCLIMATIZATION STRATEGIES FOR MILITARY MEMBERS

This heat acclimatization guidance is for military members who will be attending strenuous

advanced military training or operations in hot weather.

It provides practical guidance to obtain

optimal heat acclimatization to both maximize performance and minimize the risk of becoming a

heat casualty.

SHOULD YOU BE CONCERNED ABOUT HOT WEATHER?

If you are used to working in cool or temperate

climates, then exposure to hot weather will

make it much more difficult to complete your

military training or mission. Hot weather will

make you feel fatigued, make it more difficult

to recover, and increase your risk of being a

heat casualty. Military members with the

risk of being a heat casualty. Military members with the same physical abilities but have conditioned

same physical abilities but have conditioned themselves for hot weather will outperform you.

WHAT IS HEAT ACCLIMATIZATION?

a. Heat acclimatization refers to biological adaptations that reduce physiologic strain (e.g., heart

rate and body temperature), improve physical work capabilities, improve comfort and protects

vital organs (brain, liver, kidneys, muscles) from heat injury. The most important biological

adaptation from heat acclimatization is an earlier and greater sweating response, and for this

response to improve it needs to be invoked.

b. Heat acclimatization is specific to the climate (desert or jungle) and physical activity level.

the climate (desert or jungle) and physical activity level. However, acclimatization to desert or jungle climates

However, acclimatization to desert or jungle climates

markedly improves the ability to work in the other climate.

Military members who only perform light or brief physical

work will achieve the level of heat acclimatization needed

to perform that task. If they attempt a more strenuous or

prolonged task, additional acclimatization and improved physical fitness will be needed to

successfully perform that task in the heat.

T ABLE 1. B ENEFITS OF H EAT A CCLIMATIZATION

TABLE 1. BENEFITS OF HEAT ACCLIMATIZATION

THERMAL COMFORT - IMPROVE

Core Temperature Reduced Sweating Earlier & Greater Skin Blood Flow Earlier Body Heat Production - Lower

EXERCISE PERFORMANCE - IMPROVE

Heart Rate - Lowered Thirst - Improved Salt Losses (sweat and urine) - Reduced Organ Protection - Improved

HOW DO YOU BECOME HEAT ACCLIMATIZED?

a. Heat acclimatization occurs when repeated heat exposures are sufficiently stressful to

elevate body temperature and provoke perfuse sweating. Resting in the heat, with limited

physical activity to that required for existence, results in only partial acclimatization.

Physical exercise in the heat is required to achieve optimal heat acclimatization for that

exercise intensity in a given hot environment.

b. Generally, about two weeks of daily heat exposure is needed to induce heat

acclimatization. Heat acclimatization requires a minimum daily heat exposure of about

two hours (can be broken into two 1-hour exposures) combined with physical exercise that

requires cardiovascular endurance, (for example, marching or jogging) rather than

strength training (pushups and resistance training).

Gradually increase the exercise

intensity or duration each day. Work up to an appropriate physical training schedule

adapted to the required physical activity level for the advanced military training and

environment.

c. The benefits of heat acclimatization will be retained for ~1 week and then decay with

about 75 percent lost by ~3 weeks, once heat exposure ends. A day or two of intervening

cool weather will not interfere with acclimatization to hot weather.

HOW FAST CAN YOU BECOME HEAT ACCLIMATIZED?

a. For the average military member, heat acclimatization requires about two weeks of heat

exposure and progressive increases in physical work. By the second day of

acclimatization, significant reductions in physiologic strain are observed. By the end of

the first week and second week, >60 percent and >80 percent of the physiologic

adaptations are complete, respectively. Military members who are less fit (2 mile run

times >15 min) or unusually susceptible to heat may require several days or weeks more

to fully acclimatize.

b. Physically fit military members (2 mile run times <14 min) should be able to achieve heat

acclimatization in about one week. However, several weeks of living and working in the

heat (seasoning) may be required to maximize tolerance to high body temperatures.

WHAT ARE THE BEST HEAT ACCLIMATIZATION STRATEGIES?

a. Maximize physical fitness and heat acclimatization prior to arriving in hot weather.

Maintain physical fitness after arrival with maintenance programs tailored to the

environment, such as training runs in the cooler morning or evening hours.

b. Integrate training and heat acclimatization. Train in the coolest part of the day and

acclimatize in the heat of the day. Start slowly by reducing training intensity and duration

(compared to what you could achieve in temperate climates). Increase training and heat

exposure volume as your heat tolerance permits. Use interval training (work / rest cycles)

to modify your activity level.

c. If the new climate is much hotter than what you are accustomed to, recreational activities

may be appropriate for the first two days with periods of run / walk. By the third day, you

should be able to integrate physical training runs (20 to 40 minutes) at a reduced pace.

d. Consume sufficient water to replace sweat losses. A sweating rates of >1 quart (about 1

liter) per hour are common. Heat

acclimatization increases the sweating rate,

and therefore increases water requirements.

As a result, heat acclimatized military

members will dehydrate faster if they do not

consume fluids. Dehydration negates many

of the thermoregulatory advantages

conferred by heat acclimatization and high

physical fitness.

Dehydration negates many of the thermoregulatory advantages conferred by heat acclimatization and high physical fitness.

Table 2. Heat Acclimatization Suggestions for Military Members Attending Training

STRATEGY

Suggestions for Implementation

Start early

1.

Start at least 1 month prior to training

2.

Be flexible and patient: performance benefits take longer than the

 

physiological benefits

Mimic the training environment

1.

In warm climates, acclimatize in the heat of the day

climate

2.

In temperate climates, train in a room wearing sweats

Ensure adequate heat stress

1.

Induce sweating

2.

Work up to 100 minutes of continuous physical exercise in the heat.

 

Be patient. The first few days, you may not be able to go 100

minutes without resting

 

3.

Once you can comfortably exercise for 100 minutes in the heat,

 

continue for at least 7-14 days with added exercise intensity

Teach yourself to drink and eat

1.

Your thirst mechanism will improve as you become heat

properly

acclimatized, but you will still under drink if you rely on thirst

sensation

 

2.

Heat acclimatization will increase your fluid requirements.

3.

Dehydration will negate most benefits of physical fitness and heat

 

acclimatization

 

4.

You will sweat out more electrolytes when not acclimatized, so add

 

salt to your food, or drink electrolyte solutions during the first week of

heat acclimatization

 

5.

A convenient way to learn how much water your body needs to

 

replace is to weigh yourself before and after the 100 minutes

exercise in the heat. For each pound (0.454 kilograms) you should

drink about ½ quarts (about ½ liters) of fluids

 

6.

Do not skip meals, as this is when your body replaces most of its

 

fluid and salt losses